Best of our wild blogs: 5 Aug 17

Memecylon maxwellii – a new tree species named in memory of JF Maxwell

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NEA starts issuing haze advisories after increase in hotspots in Indonesia

Channel NewsAsia 4 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) will issue daily haze advisories from Friday (Aug 4), as there has been an increase in hotspot activities over parts of Sumatra and western Kalimantan in Indonesia in recent weeks.

Weather conditions in the region have also become drier, NEA added.

Localised hotspots with smoke plumes have been observed in central and southern Sumatra. There were 29 of such hotspots on Jul 30, the highest daily count over the past few days.

On Friday, three hotspots were detected in Sumatra, said NEA, but no visible smoke plume or haze was observed.

In its advisory, NEA said the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) for the next 24 hours in Singapore is forecast to be in the good to moderate range. The agency added that it is monitoring the smoke haze and would provide updates if the situation deteriorates.

"For the next few days, the prevailing winds over Singapore and the surrounding region are forecast to blow from the south-southeast," the agency said. "With dry weather conditions forecast to persist in parts of central and southern Sumatra, an increase in hotspot activities can be expected."

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Indonesia: Three More Provinces at Risk of Forest Fires This Year - Minister

Robertus Wardi Jakarta Globe 4 Aug 17;

Jakarta. A severe risk of forest fires has been identified in at least eight of Indonesia's provinces, as the country braces itself for a return of the annual scourge.

In addition to five previously identified areas, hot spots have now also been detected in Aceh, West Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said on Thursday (04/07).

"The government is taking this very seriously. As the president has instructed, we must be able to tackle this," Wiranto told reporters after a coordination meeting with several other ministers and state officials in Jakarta.

Indonesia was hit by the worst forest fires on record two years ago, when Sumatra and Kalimantan were blanketed in choking haze that also affected neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

The fires, partly started to clear land for palm oil plantations, destroyed vegetation on millions of hectares of land, afflicting more than half a million people with serious health problems. It also resulted in massive economic losses.

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Malaysia minister to visit Indonesia on forest fire before SEA Games

Sin Chew Daily/ANN Jakarta Post 3 Aug 17;

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafaar said he would try his best to visit Indonesia before the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games to express Malaysia’s intention to send the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART), bombardier plane and firemen to help with resolving forest fire.

“Our request is as soon as possible. If we can go tomorrow, I will go but we have to seek permission from Indonesian side first,” he said in a press conference after the 12th national water resource committee meeting.

On whether the haze would affect SEA Games starting from August 19, Wan Junaid said he has instructed deputy secretary-general of the ministry to arrange for officers to visit their counterpart in Indonesia. As the forest fire situation come under two ministries – Environment and Forestry as well as Politics, Law and Security Ministers, this required longer time for arrangement.

He said the forest fire in Indonesia has actually improved. Four days ago Aceh had 72 hotspots but the area is without hotspot now. This showed that effort to put out fire in Indonesia had been effective. It had also fulfilled its promise of resolving haze issue.

Wan Junaidi said he had instructed officers to brief him on haze condition, direction of wind and the updated report from Indonesia on forest fire each day at 7:30 a.m. starting four days ago.

“I am of the view that we should not be worried about the haze currently. Although the monsoon wind is blowing from southwest, if forest fire take place in Riau and Jami, Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore would be affected. If forest fire take place in western, middle and eastern parts of Kalimantan, then Sarawak would be affected.

“Currently we are monitoring forest fire in Aceh. Based on the direction of the wind, only northern part of the Peninsula Malaysia – Penang, Perlis, Kedah and northern part of Perak as well as Thailand would be affected.

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NEA calls for second tender to assess former landfill as location for multi-storey recycling facility

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 4 Aug 17;

SINGAPORE: Every few minutes, a truck turns into the gravelly path off Lim Chu Kang Road, raking dust off the ground as it lumbers past. Depending on what it is carrying - whether plant waste or construction materials - the truck will deposit its contents at one of more than 10 recycling companies that lease plots of land within Sarimbun Recycling Park.

Some plants will turn horticultural waste into compost, while many recover sand and metals from construction waste. It is a busy, but somewhat chaotic facility. That could change in the near future.

More than three years after plans for a multi-storey recycling facility at the park were mooted, the National Environment Agency (NEA) called for a tender in May to study the ground conditions there.

“The National Environment Agency (NEA) routinely reviews the use of space by the waste management industry to see how our land resources can be maximized,” it said in a statement to Channel NewsAsia.

NEA’s tender, published on the government’s e-procurement portal, GeBIZ, called for a geo-environmental and geo-technical study for the Recycling Park, attracting seven bids.

They range from between S$370,000 and S$3.6 million. While the contract is pending, NEA said the study is expected to start in the “third quarter (of) 2017” and will take about a year to complete.

“The study will provide technical data, such as the strength and stability of the ground, and soil and ground water conditions, to help NEA in its planning on the use of the site.”


According to NEA’s website, Sarimbun Recycling Park used to be part of a landfill site known as the Lim Chu Kang Dumping Ground. Operations at the original facility began in 1976, and closed in September 1992.

The website said the land will require 30 to 40 years to stabilise, before it can be used for “more permanent developments”. Experts Channel NewsAsia spoke with said the geo-technical and geo-environmental studies called for by NEA are especially critical to investigate soil conditions at former landfills.

A geo-technical study typically assesses the stability and strength of the soil before construction begins, said Professor Chu Jian, Director of Nanyang Technological University’s Centre for Usable Space. “Solid waste is completely different from soil. You have to investigate the geo-technical properties of the solid waste as well. For example, solid waste contains lots of organic matter and organic matter will decompose with time.”

In other words, Prof Chua said, the decomposition of organic matter could cause the ground to sink.

Unlike reclaimed land where “clean sand” is deposited and will not have a negative environmental impact, the soil at a landfill can also be contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic materials, said Prof Chu.

“When you build a structure, you have to dig foundations and so you disturb the ground and this construction process might cause some disturbance and may cause contaminates to be leeched out,” he said.

A geo-environmental study is important to investigate all these issues, Prof Chu said.


The studies come three years after plans to build a Multi-Storey Recycling Facility (MSRF) were first discussed with tenants at the site In a notice sent in October 2014 and seen by Channel NewsAsia, NEA told tenants that they had appointed a consultant to carry out a feasibility study on the viability of such a multi-storey facility for the waste management industry.

"Faced with growing land scarcity and a need for a sustainable recycling eco-system to handle the increasing amount of waste and recyclables generated locally, the government has commissioned this feasibility study to look into creating a viable solution to optimise land use and create more space to support the growth of the waste management industry," the notice read.

In 2016, Singapore's overall recycling rate remained at 61 per cent, some way off from the government's target of 70 per cent by 2030.

The notice said the facility would house different tenants and recycling operations under one roof. It said the study would also explore the possibility of incorporating common facilities such as weighbridges, meeting rooms and a vehicle parking depot.

According to the notice, the study would include a topographical survey, soil investigation that would entail drilling boreholes to obtain soil samples for testing, as well as a "broad environmental impact assessment".

The project was said to be an “inter-agency” task force comprising NEA, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and JTC Corporation. Media reports said the URA had identified two possible sites, one within Sarimbun Recycling Park, and another site in Lim Chu Kang.

When asked about how the the latest study differs from the feasibility study conducted in 2014, JTC and NEA said they have been working together to explore the feasibility of a “multi-storey, multi-tenanted facility for recycling companies”.

“An update on the project will be provided next year, following consultations with various stakeholders.”

Channel NewsAsia understands more concrete plans were shared with some tenants towards the end of last year, including a detailed impression of the facility.

Some tenants Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they had shared with the authorities that a multi-storey recycling facility would not suit their line of work, if for example, high heat was involved in decomposing recycled wood.
Source: CNA/mo

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Malaysia: Mega projects off Johor hit fishermen livelihood

EILEEN NG Today Online 4 Aug 17;

JOHOR BARU — Mr Firdaus Abdul Rahim drove his boat slowly back to Jetty Pak Ngah in Kampung Pendas, Johor, heaving a sigh of relief that his catch for the day was good.

He has been out at sea since 4am and managed to net some 4kg worth of fishes and crabs — a good haul considering that his catch has been affected for the past few years by the numerous real estate projects surrounding the village along Sungai Pendas.

“I am lucky today. Five years ago, the average catch for the day is around 10kg. Now, we are lucky to be able to get 5kg,” the tanned rotund 35-year-old said when TODAY visited the idyllic village, located about 30km from Johor Baru.

“As a result, our income has dropped from an average of RM3,000 (S$951) a month to RM1,500.”

Fishermen like Mr Firdaus used to fish solely on Sungai Pendas, which spills out into the Johor Strait.
The river is a lifeline to the local community, that includes some 250 licensed fishermen in the Tanjung Kupang sub district in Gelang Patah.

Kampung Pendas is among the nine villages in Tanjung Kupang where most of the inhabitants make a living catching catfish, snapper, groupers, flower crabs, flat head lobsters and barracudas, but their way of life is increasingly threatened by dwindling fishery stocks as a result of a slew of development around the area.

Besides the mega US$100 million (S$135 million) Forest City housing development, there are also other ongoing projects, including the expansion of the Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Tuas Port.

Adding to the locals’ concern is the ongoing construction at the mixed township of Sunway Iskandar at Iskandar Malaysia, currently taking place further inland but is expected to expand outwards towards Sungai Pendas in the near future.

Many have been quick to blame Forest City’s developer Country Garden Pacific View as the culprit following land reclamation work for the development that will sit on four man-made islands off Johor.

As a result of the ongoing projects, there have been reports of habitat damage as well as increased sedimentation in the waters, leading to extraordinary blooms of green algae that smothered the already-stressed seagrass areas — feeding grounds for various marine life.

This has resulted in less fishery stocks, forcing many fishermen to go further out to sea — including to Johor Strait and the Strait of Malacca — to try their luck.

Middleman Shalan Jum’at, who grew up in Kampung Pendas, buys the catch from fishermen like Mr Firdaus to sell it to customers who come to his wooden dwelling perched right next to Jetty Pak Ngah.

He is a familiar face in the village, as his family has been there for three generations. Mr Shalan pays fishermen RM4 to RM8 per kg more than other middlemen in the area for their catch — in cash — making him one of the more popular middlemen.

“Previously, I can get up to 60kg worth of catch a day from the fishermen, but now it is only about 10kg. Some fishermen even come back with hardly anything,” he said as he deals with demands from clients who come to him to buy fresh fish and other marine animals for their restaurant businesses and own consumption.

About 100m away from Mr Shalan’s shack sat a group of men in a shaded area, catching up with one another while smoking their cigarettes.

Mr Ridhwan Yazid who was resting with his friends after an early morning start at sea said he has to take an hour’s journey to the Strait of Malacca nowadays because of dwindling supplies, as a result of development in the area.

“Life is harder now,” he said as he sipped his teh tarik. “I have taken a second job fixing boats to make ends meet.”

The job is not permanent and, as a result, the income is not fixed.

Still, the 23-year-old is luckier than his peers. His wife is a teacher and they can still depend on her salary to cover their cost of living.

Further inland, a boat chugging into Sungai Pendas carries Mr Mohd Sharil Shafiee and two of his friends with their catch of the day — fish and crabs — still clinging onto their net.

They have just returned from the Strait of Malacca, where they have strung up a 2km-long net the night before. Mr Mohd Sharil refused to reveal how much they managed to get that day, simply saying the catch was “modest”.

He also took a part-time job to repair motorcycles as he can no longer depend solely on his income as a fisherman to support his family of three, which includes his wife and 18-month-old daughter.

“What else can I do but work doubly hard nowadays for my family,” he said with a shrug.

Travelling farther out to sea has its dangers, too.

Sometimes the fishermen inadvertently venture into Singapore waters or where the Tuas Mega Port is being built, which would result in the Republic’s coast guard chasing them away.

There is also the danger of encountering smuggling boats in the middle of the night, said the fishermen. What these boats do if they are being chased by marine police is that they will ram the fishing boat so that the marine police will go to help them — then the smugglers will get away.

Besides affecting the livelihood of the fishermen, the developments have also affected their living environment. Heavy vehicles passed by the two-lane road leading to the Kampung Pendas, while modest single-storey, semi-concrete and wooden houses along the route have to put up with noise and dust pollution.

Many residents have complained that their houses are full of dust even with the windows and doors shut. They could not hang their freshly laundered clothes outside to dry, as doing so would mean ending up with clothes covered in a layer of dust.

Administrative officer Muhamad Sofi Juhari, whose mother runs a nasi lemak stall in front of their house, said: “There was is a thick layer of dust on the tables every day, which my mum needs to wipe a few times a day."

“The food has to be constantly covered to ensure that it is dust free,” he said, although he conceded that it is less dusty now as the lorries do not ply the road as much as before.

He said villagers on motorbikes and bicycles have complained about sore throats and irritated eyes due to dust inhalation and particles in their eyes as they traverse the road.

In response to the local community's concerns, Country Garden’s international communications director Wong Chia Peck told TODAY that the company has been taking proactive measures to minimise the impact of the Forest City project on the environment and surrounding waters.

This includes appointing one of Malaysia’s top sea grass research teams from University Putra Malaysia (UPM) to replant the seagrass affected by its reclamation work and monitoring the health of flora and fauna in the surrounding areas.
It has also appointed a local environment consultant to perform a quarterly shoreline monitoring to assess any occurrence of sedimentation and erosion.
“We’ve engaged consultants to set up an Environmental Management Unit, comprising environmental professionals, that is on-site throughout the duration of the project. It is responsible for the daily, weekly and monthly environmental monitoring, in coordination with independent environmental laboratories to ensure that water quality is not compromised during reclamation,” she said.

“Full-spectrum analysis of water quality is carried out on a monthly basis within a laboratory environment. It is complemented by daily real-time and continuous monitoring through the Online Monitoring Systems (OMS), where devices are placed at strategic locations to capture water quality and the results are transmitted real-time, via the Internet, to the Department of Environment and other key stakeholders.”

She said the company has heard the locals’ feedback regarding noise and dust, and pointed out that traffic caused by lorries its contractors operate has reduced by almost 90 per cent.

This is because a 5.8km highway connecting the Port of Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) Highway directly to Forest City has been operational in stages since last October, reducing the need to drive through the village.
“As part of our ongoing CSR (corporate social responsibility) efforts, we have also spent RM2.7 million on village road maintenance and repairs, even though we are not the only company with lorries using these roads,” she added.

Meanwhile, Sunway Iskandar management said, while it has not started any development at the Pendas waterfront, it has, however, taken several measures such as conducting detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to ensure the impact of its project is minimised.

“To the best of our knowledge, we have taken every step to ensure minimal disruption to the environment especially the waters, within set guidelines,” the management said in a statement to TODAY.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said it is “unlikely that the developments in Tuas have affected the livelihoods of fishermen in Johor”.
“In developing our new port in Tuas, we have undertaken Environmental Impact Assessments to ensure minimal impact on the environment. In addition, the Tuas Port development works are carried out under the close monitoring of a stringent Environmental Monitoring and Management Programme, which includes setting spill limits for dredging and reclamation filling works and water-quality monitoring,” said the spokesperson.

“MPA has worked in partnership with marine experts and public volunteers to conserve and relocate local coral colonies around the Sultan Shoal Lighthouse during the development of the new Tuas Port. MPA will continue to ensure that Tuas Port has minimal impact on the environment.”

On how Singapore responds to Johor fishermen who stray into the area, the spokesperson noted that the developments are located within the Singapore port limits.

“The waters around the project area are well-defined and marked as a working area. Port marine notices are regularly issued to inform the shipping, harbour and pleasure craft communities to keep clear of the area for their safety. Entry of other vessels other than the approved working craft is strictly prohibited within these project areas,” the MPA spokesperson added.

As of press time, there was no response from Malaysia’s Ministry of Transport. The Port of Tanjung Pelepas comes under its jurisdiction.

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Malaysia, Tanjung Kupang: Nature's treasure trove

Chuah Bee Kim New Straits Times 4 Aug 17;

Like many other fishermen in villages that dot the seaside subdistrict of Tanjung Kupang, Shalan Jum'at has seen an increasing influx of Malaysians and foreigners wanting to hire guides like him to discover the natural beauty in this corner of southwest Johor.

The 30-year-old's life now is a far cry from the time his neighbourhood in Kampung Pendas here was regarded as a sleepy hollow that was too far off the grid for many urbanites.

The advent of development such as nearby Forest City, and a boom in eco-tourism have opened Shalan's eyes to the potential of the natural wonders in the sea and rivers that lie just at his doorstep.

"Rapid development has changed the face of Tanjung Kupang for the better.

”It prompted me to grab the opportunities by diversifying my skills.

"Though I cherish the good old days, when my family solely relied on the sea for our livelihood, I know I must face the changes around me head-on.

"I still go about my work as a fisherman, but I also train youths in the village to become eco-warriors.

“I teach them to seize opportunities around them by imparting entrepreneurial skills," said Shalan.

The subdistrict of Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah, has a population of 11,000; 245 of them are registered fishermen.

Nine years ago, Shalan co-founded Kelab Alami, an outfit that enables villagers and school pupils to learn more about the rich marine eco-system and environment there.

The area is known for its rich sea grass nearby Pulau Merambung and the Sungai Pulai estuary, which are teeming with marine life such as sea horse, starfish and a myriad of other species.

When reclamation work for Forest City began two years ago, the project's master developer, Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd, began lending its support to Kelab Alami's grassroots initiative.

The master developer also adopted five schools in the subdistrict and provided free tuition for hundreds of pupils as part of its corporate social responsibility.

This has worked well for Shalan, who earns the respect of the local youth who are part of Kelab Alami.

Some of these youngsters returned to the club and now work as marine researchers and facilitators. Others have become entrepreneurs at Forest City and its surrounding traditional villages.

Shalan also met his wife, Dr Serina Rahman, through his work in Kelab Alami.

The couple have been training youths to become marine researchers and trainers for school pupils in the programmes conducted by the club.

Serina, 31, who is a conservation scientist and environmental anthropologist, relocated from Kuala Lumpur to Kampung Pendas in 2008 for a research project.

When she married Shalan four years later, the couple continued to bring pupils from nearby schools to conduct site research and expeditions to evoke awareness about the area's natural treasures.

"The children were as young as 10 when I first met them. We trained them to become citizen researchers and eco-tourist guides.

"Those that I met when I first came here are now grown up. They can present slides and give talks on environmental issues in the village.

"The tourists love it when the local youths share with them about things in their own village," said Serina, who is a down-to-earth person, despite her academic credentials.

She holds a doctorate in Applied Sciences from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and a bachelor's degree from Cardiff University of Wales, United Kingdom.

When talking about depleting marine life in some parts of the country, Serina said it was an issue affecting the entire world.

"It is a global phenomenon where marine food stocks face a threat of being wiped out by 2050.

"The best we can do is rebuild and resort to species re-stocking.

"The master developer of Forest City is funding Kelab Alami," she said.

Serina said the club became a platform to mentor pupils from the nine villages in Tanjung Kupang.

Kelab Alami members inform each other about work and interning opportunities available in the development of the mega project.

"This club benefits the local children in various ways. As Internet connection is not good in some parts of Kampung Pendas, and most of the older fishermen and their families aren't Internet-savvy, our members will knock on their doors whenever there is news of job opportunities in Forest City," she said.

Nur Afiqah So'ot, 19, is among the many youngsters who joined Kelab Alami as a child and developed an interest in nature and conservation.

"As a child, I used to love playing marbles and all sports that boys like to play. But the club enabled me to learn about farming and the rich marine life that we have.

"I hope to become a scientist one day. I am hoping to pursue a degree in biodiversity and conservation," said Nur Afiqah.

Mohammad Irfan Yazid, also 19, initially dreamed of becoming an architect. But now, he has set his sights on becoming a scientist, specialising in the study of mangrove forests, which is in abundance in his village. For now, Irfan is helping out at a motorcycle workshop located in Forest City.

"I also dabble in making and selling burgers. I’m running an 'ikan bakar' (grilled fish) stall in the village. I am learning all these entrepreneurship skills from Shalan," Irfan said.


"The tuition sessions come with complete meals for pupils and these have benefited them as they make preparations for their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) this year," Zulkiflee said.

He said SK Tanjung Adang was among the five schools adopted by Country Garden Pacificview.

The other four schools were SK Tiram Duku, SK Tanjung Kupang, SK Murni Pok and SK Pendas Laut.

"No other developer has done this and we appreciate the developer's effort under its corporate social responsibility programme," he said.

Country Garden Pacificview corporate communications head, Aeron Munajat, said the developer supported Kelab Alami because its activities helped youths develop their confidence and self-esteem as well as their social and interpersonal skills.

"As a responsible member of the community, Country Garden Pacificview helps to increase awareness about the environment in this area as the community is surrounded by natural treasures some are not aware of.

"We are looking at a collaboration to set up a Nature Centre, which will boost eco-tourism in the area in the future. Eco-tourists also love the young ambassadors of Kelab Alami," she said.

Aeron said events such as ‘buka puasa’ (breaking of fast) during Ramadan and gatherings, as well as donations of cattle and other items during big celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha, have strengthened ties between the community at Forest City and folk in the surrounding villages.

She also paid tribute to the teachers of the five adoptive schools for their willingness to stay back after school hours to provide tuition in four subjects for the pupils who were taking their UPSR this year.

"We are also launching a free Mandarin tuition class for the villagers this month. We hope that all our effort will give the local community a sense of inclusiveness."

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